Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Monday, September 25, 2023
|Melody A, Betts as Evillene (center)|
in the revival of The Wiz, headed for Broadway.
Credit: Jeremy Daniel
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Two recent weekend fragments.
|Harriet Tubman's house|
in Auburn, NY
Auburn, NY: Harriet Tubman's House. Our guide spoke for an hour on Harriet's life, explaining the movie was 75 percent accurate. Then we saw the actual house, but did not go inside because there was nothing in it. However, a second house on the property where Harriet ran a home for elderly people was resorted with furnishings of the era so we could go in.
|At the It's a Wonderful Life Museum|
in Seneca Falls, NY
Friday, September 22, 2023
Loh is the author of The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones, selected by the New York Times' 100 Most Notable Books. Her previous book Mother on Fire is based on her solo theater piece about the Los Angeles school system. Her other solo shows include Aliens in America, Bad Sex with Bud Kemp, Sugar Plum Fairy, and I Worry.
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
|Daphne Rubin-Vega and |
Tim Daly will star in
The Night of the Iguana.
“The Night of the Iguana poses critical questions of faith and identity that are particularly relevant today as we navigate a paradoxically divided yet open world,” Lichty, executive director of La Femme, said in a statement. “Tennessee offers an answer by writing an epic that he described as ‘a play about love in its purest terms.'”
Iguana opened on Broadway in 1961 with Bette Davis, Margaret Leighton (Tony Award for Best Actress), and Patrick O'Neal, and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The drama focuses on a defrocked priest at the end of his spiritual rope who has crash-landed at a rundown tourist spot in Acapulco, Mexico. There he encounters the lusty, widowed hotel owner, a traveling artist and her 92-year-old grandfather. John Huston's film version was released in 1964 with Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Sue Lyon, and Grayson Hall (Oscar nomination).
Saturday, September 16, 2023
(Read on my I-phone on the Libby app) Still continuing the Vonnegut reading jag. This collection of previously unpublished stories is a fast, fun read. Like the pieces in Bagombo Snuff Box, they were written early in Vonnegut's career to sell to popular publication like Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, and Ladies' Home Journal for casual entertainment in the days before mass media eliminated reading time. This group, the second posthumous collection following Look at the Birdie, has only two segments featuring elements of fantasy--Jenny, about a lonely traveling appliance salesman and his relationship with human-like refrigerator and The Epizootic, concerning an epidemic of suicide among young male breadwinners. The rest are neat little moral lessons with O. Henry ironic endings. They all have charm, but not the dark stinging wit which mark Vonnegut's novels. All the characters are sharply drawn in clear, quick strokes. I enjoyed the title story about a Scrooge-like newspaper editor forced to judge a Christmas light display contest. That one and the rest of the stories have relatively simple premises. A young war widow, ironically named Ruth, confronts her domineering mother-in-law. A model train enthusiast neglects his wife. Another widow develops a passionate fantasy life with a pen pal. Dave Eggers in the forward calls them mousetrap stories where the author traps the reader into a moral conclusion, as opposed to modern short stories which are more like photo-realism. Both genres have their place and can give pleasure.
The only thing that bothered me about this volume is this: Does "unpublished" mean these stories were not published anywhere before, not even in magazines? There is no page listing where they might have originally appeared as there was in Bagombo which is subtitled "uncollected" as opposed to "unpublished."
Thursday, September 14, 2023
|Nicol Williamson and George C. Scott in|
Uncle Vanya (1973)
|Heidi Schreck in her play|
What the Constitution Means to Me.
Credit: Joan Marcus
starring David Cromer, Marin Ireland, Bill Irwin, and Will Brill played in a Manhattan loft for audiences of 40 this past summer and received rave reviews. Jay O. Sanders won a Drama Desk Award for playing the title tole in a 2018 production. Previous Broadway stagings have starred Derek Jacobi and Roger Rees (2000), Tom Courtney and James Fox (1995), Nicol Williamson, George C. Scott and Julie Christie (1973), and Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier and Margaret Leighton (1946). A film adaptation, Vanya on 42nd Street (1995), directed by Louis Malle, starred Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine, and Lynn Cohen.
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
|Kelli O'Hara and Brian d'Arcy James|
in Days of Wine and Roses at Atlantic
Credit: Ahron R. Foster
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
|Water for Elephants at the|
Alliance Theater in Atlanta.
Credit: Matthew Murphy
Monday, September 11, 2023
|Rachel McAdams will|
star in Mary Jane
|Carrie Coon and Susan Pourfar|
in Mary Jane (2017)
Credit: Joan Marcus
Saturday, September 9, 2023
(Downloaded and read on the Libby App on my I-phone) Continuing with my Vonnegut binge, I ripped through this collection of short essays originally published in the small journal In These Times. Written towards the end of his life and published in 2005, these ruminations on politics, humor, and life in general are startling in their relevance almost 20 years later. With this characteristic dry sarcastic wit, Vonnegut bemoans climate change (then called global warming) and the rampant corruption and warmongering of the George W. Bush administration. God only knows what he would have said about our current state of environmental disaster and the Trump crime family who make W., Cheney, and their cronies look like Sunday school teachers. (And what's really scary is that a huge swatch of the gullible public actually want Trumpy back in power. That's a whole Vonnegut essay right there. In fact, Trump could be a Vonnegut character he's so over the top.) The author's probably rolling in this grave and if he could jump out of it, he'd scream at all of us, "I told ya so! Geez, I didn't think things could get much worse when I passed, but you morons managed to do it!" Vonnegut is merciless in his castigation of humanity for ruining our planet and putting ignorant "guessers" in power over scientists and wise men who follow logic instead of passions.There are also biographical segments on his childhood, war experiences, struggles to gain a foothold as an author, and his current life in Manhattan. In the latter, he laments how technology has eliminated the simple joys of taking a walk to the corner newsstand to buy stamps, then to the post office to mail a manuscript to a typist, and meeting and talking with fellow humans along the way. Email and computers had destroyed typewriters and community. But at the same time Vonnegut doesn't pine for the "good old days." He objectively states that there were no "good old" times, just times and we should relish whatever joys we can such as just sitting with friends and drinking lemonade as his favorite uncle advised.
Thursday, September 7, 2023
(Borrowed from the Mid-Manhattan NYPL on 40th St. and Fifth Ave.) After viewing that documentary on Vonnegut on Hulu, I launched a binge on so-far unread works by the author I've been reading since high school (or maybe junior high, I can't recall.) A plentiful collection of previously uncollected stories from Vonnegut's early days as a writer, eking out a living at a variety of jobs including car salesman and PR wordsmith for General Electric. From the 50s into the early 60s, a number of magazines published short stories by unknowns (Now the New Yorker is one of the few left, and they generally employ known quantities.) Each is a little gem with a twist ending (In an afterward, Vonnegut admits he rewrote three of them for this collection.) Most are humorous satires of human behavior, subdivision small town dreamers. Only two (Thanasphere and 2BR02B) display the dark science-fiction bent of Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, Sirens of Titan, and Player Piano. The formula many follow has an objective narrator, either a real-estate man or a financial consultant injected into the bizarre world of absent-minded geniuses, small-time con men and women or obsessive ketchup consultants. My favorites were Any Reasonable Offer (very funny), Runaways (insightful dissection of shallow teenagers and their clueless parents), and Hal Irwin's Magic Lamp (a wallop of a story on clashing values along class and racial lines). Looking forward to the other Vonnegut collections of fiction, essays and letters.
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
|Jessica Lange will star in|
Paula Vogel's Mother Play.
|Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in|
Death Becomes Her.
Monday, September 4, 2023
|Only Murders in the Building with|
Selena Gomez, Steve Martin
and Martin Short
Sunday, September 3, 2023
Book Review: The Big Lie: Election Chaos, Political Opportunism and the State of American Politics After 2020
(Taken out of the Jackson Heights Library) Jonathan Lemire is a familiar face and welcome presence for his appearances on Morning Joe and his tough questions for Trump as a reporter for Politico and the Associated Press. His book on Trump's endless mendacities is valuable in that its a fairly detailed record of the past seven years beginning with Trump's 2016 statement that the upcoming presidential election would be rigged if he doesn't win. I didn't learn anything I didn't already know and there is a lack of independent interviews (Most quotes are from other books.) But a good summary of Trump's efforts to discredit our election system when it didn't go his way, plus his history of an extremely loose relationship with the truth.
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
But here we are with the very real possibility that the Cheeto Julius Caesar could return to office in 2024. It's not impossible. Biden's age, voter indifference and whatever the shiny object of the moment will be next November could combine to propel Trumpy back into the White House. Hopefully that won't happen, but it's not out of the question.
Monday, August 28, 2023
Aug. 18, 1979: Cheryl Ladd
|Carol with Cheryl Ladd on Carol Burnett and|
Friday, August 25, 2023
|A Beautiful Noise with Will Swenson and cast|
will now play four matinees per week.
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
|Cast members of The Outsiders|
at La Jolla Playhouse
Credit: Rich Soublet II
Saturday, August 19, 2023
The second piece shows Vonnegut's progression into the dark satire for which he become renowned in the late 1960s and '70s with Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. The central character is Gil Berman, a stand-up comic like Lenny Bruce and Vonnegut himself who dispenses uncomfortable truths in the form of wisecracks. This fragment is funny and details the comic's encounter with a deranged fan at a performance in Northhampton, Mass. We also are treated to Gil's visits to mental hospitals. A transcript of a session with a female pscyhiatrit reads like a Marx Brother routine.
The two stories together show Vonnegut's progression from easy satisfying fiction to dangerous cynical commentary. It made me think of the main character in Bluebeard, the artist who gives up realistic portraiture for abstract expression. When his furious wife asks why can't be just paint pretty pictures everyone can understand and relate to (and therefore make more money) instead of the weird challenging, unprofitable material he's been churning out, he replies, "Because that's too easy." It was too easy for Vonnegut to make simple stories. The harder stuff was what he wanted to write.
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
(Taken out of the Jackson Heights library) From Jane Austen to Kurt Vonnegut is quite a leap. After watching a documentary on Vonnegut's life on Hulu, I found this slim volume at my local library. Many years ago I started reading Vonnegut (probably in high school, maybe junior high, I can't remember). I have completed all of the novels, but not the shorter, later essays and uncollected stories. I even met him once at a film critics' awards ceremony where I told him how much I enjoyed Galapagos, his most recent book at the time. He was very nice. This is a collection of short pieces (many only one page) imagining Vonnegut as a reporter from the after-life for public radio station WNYC. The titular real-life doctor who famously specialized in assisted suicide sends the author to the other side where he interviews dead people and then returns to life. Very brief, funny, full of Vonnegut's trademark sharp, cynical wit.
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
(Read on my I-phone on the Libby app, digital edition borrowed from the NYPL) Another one of the 100 books the BBC says I should read before I die and this is the first time I have read a Jane Austen novel. I had seen several film and TV adaptations of Austen's original so it was fascinating to compare them to the original. As I suspected, Lady Catherine does not barge into the Bennett household in the middle of the night as she did in the 2005 version. (She arrives in the afternoon in the book.) Neither does she make up with Darcy right away and overcome her objections to his engagement to Elizabeth as she does in the 1940 MGM Hollywood version. The original is also much harsher on Elizabeth's parents. In the various film adaptations, they are well-meaning but bungling. Austen portrays them as dangerously naive, foolish and empty-headed. Worst of all, their marriage is one of misalliance.
Austen's classic is just as much about manners, protocol, and finance as it is about romance, offering a snapshot of upper-middle class British life in the early 19th century. The tension between Elizabeth and Darcy is palpable and you do feel great relief when they finally get together. The characterizations and dialogue are rich, especially of Darcy and Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennett and the flighty daughter Lydia.
Friday, August 11, 2023
Friday, August 4, 2023
Before, during and after her variety series, Carol headlined a series of specials available as bonus features on DVD collections or on YouTube.
|Lucy and Carol in the|
Chutzpah musical number
in Carol + 2
Thursday, August 3, 2023
|Maryann Plunkett, Joy Woods, and |
Jordan Tyson in the Chicago production
of The Notebook.
Credit: Liz Lauren
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
|Alex Brightman, James Monroe Iglehart, |
Matthew Saldivar and the cast of Spamalot
at the Kennedy Center. (Credit: Jeremy Daniel)
Sunday, July 30, 2023
Saturday, July 29, 2023
|Tim with the Village|
People on his
short-lived 1980 variety series
Tim, Joe and Harvey tried to recapture the magic of Carol's show but it was missing. Tim's Mr. Tudball without Carol's Mrs. Wiggins became tiresome. Even though Harvey was there for some of the show, the Old Man bit was also repetitive. There was some funny material such as the recurring audience-participation sketches where real-life members of the studio audience would participate in a scene reading cue cards with Tim (probably the best segment in the series). The Don Creighton Dancers were a troupe of kids performing as if they were adults which was kind of fun. Jack Riley (best known as the neurotic Mr. Carlton on The Bob Newhart Show) was an effective regular for a while, but was removed after May of 1980. Here's a rundown of Tim Conway Show episodes featuring Carol, Harvey and Vicki (available on YouTube).
Friday, July 28, 2023
Sunday, July 23, 2023
Bought at the Strand for $10 and read mostly on an 10-hour flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt to JFK. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize which was a motivator for me to read it. That and its brevity (I was looking for an absorbing read during a vacation.) Amusing and detailed, this novel follows a gay white male about to turn 50, taking stock of his life as he travels around the world on a series of opportune writing assignments and left-handed invitations from friends of friends, all to avoid the wedding of his ex. Arthur Less is endearing and charming. It's hard to dislike him but it's equally hard to muster any sympathy for him. Ironically, his latest novel has been rejected by his long-time publisher for those very reasons--the protagonist has first-world problems. I mean how many of us would kill to have Less's kind of life--a nice house in San Francisco, a first marriage to a world famous poet, and a trip around the world, gratis! So Greer is making fun of himself. When Less turns his novel into a comedy, that supposedly unblocks him creatively and emotionally. The writing is funny and strong with wonderful descriptions of the various locales in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The opening chapter is particularly funny with its comedy of errors as Less prepares to interview a famous sci-fi author (probably modeled on Games of Thrones' George R.R. Martin) who is suffering from food poisoning. Funny and fast and eventually I warmed up to Less but I didn't feel badly for him.
Friday, July 21, 2023
|David Hyde Pierce will|
star in Here We Are,
the last Sondheim musical
coming to Off-B'way this fall.
Credit: Joan Marcus
Stephen Sondheim, will begin previews at the Shed's Griffin Theater on Sept. 28 with an opening set for Oct. 22. Derived from two Luis Bunuel classic films, The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the show features a book by David Ives (All in the Timing) and direction by two-time Tony winner Joe Mantello. The all-star cast includes Obie winner Francois Battiste (The Good Negro, A Raisin in the Sun), Drama Desk winner Tracie Bennett (End of the Rainbow), Drama Desk and Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Boardwalk Empire, Will and Grace), Michaela Diamond (Parade), Amber Gray (Hadestown), Ja Hin (M. Butterfly), Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen, Pippin), Tony and Drama Desk winner Denis O'Hare (Take Me Out, Sweet Charity), Drama Desk winner Steven Pasquale (Reasons to Be Pretty, The Bridges of Madison County), Tony and Emmy winner David Hyde Pierce (Curtains, Frasier), and Tony nominee Jeremy Shamos (Clybourne Park).
|The cast of How to Dance in Ohio.|
Credit: Curtis Brown
formal dance. The show premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2022 and features music by Jacob Yandura and book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, who are also making their Broadway debuts. Director Sammi Cannold is also a first-timer for the Main Stem.
Thursday, July 20, 2023
|The elegant lobby of the Intercontinental|
Hotel in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar we had been to on our last visit. It was remarkable for its colorful displays and non-aggressive salesmen. Then we took our cruise on the bosphorus with Mehmet providing commentary. At one point, I had a picture taken as we approached a bridge to show we were between Europe and Asia.
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Sat., July 15--Kavala
|Kavala's idea of public transportation.|
At least it was free.